The body was that of a young man, mid-twenties. Tall, kind of skinny, but maybe he'd worked out, inside the layers of the suit. The empty holster visible beneath his askew jacket suggested the gun they'd found next to the body was also his. The only mark on him appeared to be superficial burns, and the ground around was scorched. The familiar damp, burnt smell of electrocution permeated the air. Difficult to draw any obvious connections from there to the gun and the three unconscious men they'd found in close proximity around the body.
Sara Sidle ducked under the makeshift canvas tent the cops had erected to try preserve the scene from the rain and leaned over to get a closer look at the victim’s eyes. For a moment, she could have sworn that the dim light reflected a silvery glint in the dull glaze of his corneas. But whatever she'd thought she'd seen, she couldn't duplicate it by angling her head and the flashlight.
Since the photographers had finished snapping the scene, she reached down with gloved fingers to extract the wallet from his inside pocket.
"Jake Foley - what?" She broke off, staring at the ID. "Hey, Brass, get this. Our dead guy is a government spook." She raised the badge she'd found. "National Security Agency."
"Better call ahead for your people to have everything ready and waiting at the lab, then," Brass said grumpily. "We won't have him for more than five minutes before the NSA are crawling down our noses."
"Captain!" One of the police officers waved him over to where they were interviewing a thin and trembling man with waterlogged longish hair plastered to his face. Sara had wrapped up what she was doing and was crossing to join them when Brass turned back.
"Russian ex-pat, former KGB scientist," he said. "I'm not sure he's supposed to be blabbing that to the world and their dog, but he's a bit shaken up right now. He says Foley was assigned to protect him and he saw the whole thing. Says Foley took out the hit guys, then..." He coughed uneasily. "Guy says our corpse was struck by lightning."
"What?" Sara craned her neck up at the buildings towering either side of the narrow alley. There was no sign of any storm or electrical damage anywhere else nearby. She lowered her eyes again and stared frankly at Brass. "Seriously - in a built up area like this, a bolt of lightning is going to ground itself in something the size of a person?"
Grissom met up with Brass outside cold storage, heading the same way he was. "Thought I'd beat you here," Brass said. "Got to tell you, there's a problem with your corpse."
"They're here already?"
"Not exactly. Take a look for yourself."
Grissom peered through the glass panel in the door of the outer office. There was only one body in there he didn't recognise. "My corpse is sitting up drinking coffee with Sara?" he asked archly.
Brass wasn't laughing.
"No. They miscalled the government agent?" He pulled a face at the responding shrug. "Tell me he didn't wake up in a body bag."
"Small mercies. Apparently he set off the metal detectors so your people stuck him in the x-ray machine. At the point he went nuts and started thrashing around, your genius Sidle in there figured out he might just still be among the living."
Grissom frowned at the young man perched on the desk. He wasn't looking at the door - but something told him their corpse was fully aware that they were there. "I get the impression he's listening to us."
"Yeah, he also looks pretty healthy for someone who was mistaken for dead not an hour ago. Some screw-up." Brass pushed back the door. "Sorry to break up the cosy chat, but I need to talk to your corpse here."
The corpse looked annoyed. "It's Foley. Jake Foley. In case you haven't noticed? I'm not dead. Although it kinda seems to be a day for making that small error in clinical judgement."
"Right - which is why I want to talk to you before your people get here and start waving threats around at my people."
"Sara?" Grissom inclined his head to the door. "A word?" He exchanged an accidental glance with the NSA agent, grimaced in synchronization with the young man, who had his sympathy given the expression on Brass's face. Then he herded Sara out the door and around into an empty, chill room occupied only by sheeted corpses - all of them hopefully dead.
"He was dead," Sara said even as the door closed behind them. "I saw him at the scene where the coroner called it, and I would swear there was no mistake made here. The sitting up half an hour later? Does not add up, okay? Something is weird."
"Spontaneous human combustion?" Grissom said gently.
"That's a cheap shot, you know you set me up for that one. But that guy--" She pointed forcefully back to the room. "That guy in there was dead."
"Agent Duarte, NSA. I'm here to pick up my partner." Jake looked up as he heard the introduction. A moment later the door opened and Kyle walked in behind a black guy who had some serious amused-eyebrow action going on.
"Hey," Kyle greeted neutrally, eyes sliding in a careful assessment that took in the bandaging on Jake's feet. "You all right?"
"Apart from being pronounced dead and apparently having a promising second career as a lightning conductor? ...Yeah. Pretty much." Jake sighed. The attractive brunette, Sidle, was shooting him suspicious glances again, and the police captain had never stopped. He figured the guy thought his team was in line for a major dressing down about this incident, which would obviously be entirely Jake's fault on account of not being dead enough. The head crime scene investigator guy, Grissom, seemed amused and interested, but under the good humour he was the one Jake worried about - he noticed too much.
Of course, none of them had any clue that their 'corpse' was chock full of nanites. His own best guess was that the lightning strike had caused the nanites to shut down, and he'd registered as dead until they went into a reboot sequence - thankfully, not too late for the damage to his body and brain to be beyond their capacity to repair.
"So you really were struck by lightning, huh?" the newcomer asked. As Jake and Kyle both turned to look at him, he said easily, "Warrick Brown, CSI. Guess this would be a more cheerful place to work if more of our, uh, clientele got up and walked out of here."
Kyle visibly gave up trying to make a dent in the man with his patented Death Frown and turned to Brass and Grissom, utilizing his unerring instinct for where the authority was at. "So, can I take my partner out of here now, or do I have to book him out as evidence? Or were you hoping to run an autopsy?"
"Hey, Kyle, buddy, you know that's not really--" Jake protested.
"Jake," his partner said warningly. He shut up. Kyle turned back to Grissom. "I'll need any and all blood and tissue samples that were taken, not to mention the x-rays..." He rattled off a long list that sounded like it had to include every possible test that could be run on a body.
"You got the paperwork for all that?" Grissom asked without inflection.
"It's not like we even had chance to do a fraction of those," Sara griped, folding her arms and scratching at the floor with the toe of one foot.
Kyle ignored her, glared at Grissom, and plucked his cellphone from his jacket. "Give me five minutes," he said as he raised the cell to his ear.
"They took the blood samples," Sara said mournfully. She scrubbed her hands over her face and muttered, with rather more belligerence, "NSA assholes."
"Man, they took everything," Warrick said wonderingly.
They were hunched around a table in the lab, Sara, Brass, Grissom, and Warrick - feeling like a latecomer at the party still - and all of them still stressed out from the arrival of Agent Duarte's 'paperwork'. Warrick wondered about the type of paperwork that needed a party of black-suited spooks and one very scary hardass of a woman to carry it. The NSA had proceeded to strip every trace of their guy from evidence. The young man at the centre of all the grief had hung back looking embarrassed, shooting apologetic looks at any CSI eyes he could find.
"They sure didn't want to leave any part of that guy anywhere near you people," Brass grunted. "How 'bout that?"
"Kind of telling in itself, wouldn't you say?" Grissom posed.
"I say I'm not interested in speculating what those freaks get up to." Brass stood up, his chair scraping loudly in the hushed lab. "And I think some of us have real work to do. Catch you people later." He stomped out of the room.
Warrick exchanged glances with Grissom and Sara. "Why do I get the impression I missed the most interesting part of today?"
Sara faked sarcastic laughter. "Oh, no. You need to be glad that you weren't there when that guy sat up." She frowned at Grissom. "So you believe me now?"
"Hard to explain why they'd be so thorough if there was nothing unusual to hide. Of course, we have no proof." Grissom stood and brushed off his hands.
"Case of the lack of proof being proof in itself, surely?" Warrick philosophised.
"Somehow I doubt that'll stand up in court," Sara said.
"Then it's just as well there's been no crime committed here," Grissom said. "You guys have work to do?"
She shrugged. "My case just walked out of here with a bunch of stuffed suits."
"--I was going help her."
Grissom cast a wry glance back at them and headed off.
"You wonderin' what I'm wonderin'?" Warrick asked as the door swung shut. "Robot?"
"Nah." Sara shook her head emphatically. "He had blood, and his skin burned. Genetic mutant."
"But they were hella freaky about the x-rays. Cyborg."
They were still going strong ten minutes later when Grissom came back and dragged them out to process a double homicide on the interstate.